The morning after the night before, when that night included a bad goalie performance is time for belabouring the obvious: the goalie was bad and should feel bad. There’s so many articles, so much o-pining on the topic, so much fussy, disappointed-dad finger-wagging editorials, that it’s enough to make me long for a good old “the ref is out to get us” carry on.
Everyone, from the angry fan for whom I have a lot of sympathy, to the professional take artist for whom I have none, keeps saying the same things. And I can listen to the fans, but a professional writer deciding to be a stern version of Captain Obvious is just too much.
You can’t defend that. There’s no excuses. It’s unacceptable.
It is, though. It’s totally acceptable, because it did occur, it will occur again, and the emotionally satisfying comeuppance the villain gets in a movie is not coming for the goalie you are mad at. You actually do have to just accept it. After you’re done being angry, that’s only natural.
Sometimes you just have to make a save. He had to have that.
No, no he doesn’t. That’s the evil thing about the game of hockey. The goalie actually does not have to make that save, and they won’t some of the time. And there usually is not one iota of punishment for it. He’s not getting bag skated.
He’s not the guy!
And yet, there he is, tasked with being the guy.
I’ve given up on him!
Unlike Tinkerbell, he won’t fade out of view, though.
Okay now I’m listening a little. Just what shoulda Dubas done? Fire up the hindsight bias machine and make some trades in the past!
The possibility existed in the offseason in October for Dubas to make a change in goalie. Standing in his way was a flat salary cap, big contracts for forwards, the need to fill in the forward roster with above-replacement-level players at replacement-level prices and the opportunities of a limited market.
There is no reason to think that Dubas chose not to make a move that was available, and every reason to think there were none to be had that were worth doing. It’s also good to remember that the Leafs had just lost in dramatic fashion to a not very good team in the not really a playoffs. They managed that with perfectly fine goaltending from Frederik Andersen by being really terrible in other ways Dubas needed to fix.
The acquisition of Jack Campbell last year was supposed to be some level of safety net, and I am hearing a lot of: Why won’t they just play Campbell! It’s so simple.
We shall see what we see this evening, and perhaps Jack Campbell is fully recovered from various leg injuries that kept him out of action for most of this season, but this has now been a recurring theme with him, and he has played in nine games for the Leafs in over a calendar year. Safety nets shouldn’t have holes that big in them.
Once you get below the rostered backup goalie, the choices this season for how to carry extras left the Leafs, and any other team operating right at the salary cap, with the common dilemma of navigating waivers. To have some hero to come save the team sitting in the wings, to have the big movie moment Jordan Binnington got with the Blues, you need to have a prospect who is good, but you’ve not noticed it yet or — even tougher — an extra backup who will clear waivers, but is secretly about to burst out with a hot season.
The Leafs don’t have any prospects whose glory is being stifled in the minors. They have one prospect, Joe Woll, who was stuck on the Taxi Squad for weeks because of Jack Campbell’s injuries. Dubas added Veini Vehvilainen to address the minor-league troubles where they rode an ECHL goalie almost to oblivion due to lack of any other options.
They have this problem at the other end of the depth chart because, prior to the great change of 2015, the Leafs rarely drafted goalies. The two they did draft from 2010 to 2015, Garret Sparks and Antoine Bibeau, came as close as you get to being NHL goalies without actually being NHL goalies. They’re both noble misses, but there needed to be 10 swings of the bat, not two.
The attempts to sign young prospects or get them in trade since then have been too few and poorly done. Vehvilainen has some scraps of potential, but it’s not anything to believe in too hard. Remember Chris Gibson?
Help is not coming from below, and the extreme of invective/praise/invective leveled at Michael Hutchinson is just a symptom of the fact that the Leafs have had no other choices than to play the goalies exactly as they have been played.
This is the trouble with all the stern dad talk that makes it seem like Andersen took your Studebaker out and smashed it up after drinking beers with the boys from the football team. You can’t ground him. Or send him to military school. There is no second half to the sentence, “Sometimes you have to have that.” There is no “or else.”
After Jack Campbell plays tonight there will be 23 days to the trade deadline, with nine Leafs games to judge from. That’s possibly enough time to figure out if Andersen and Campbell are fully healthy, but not much else. If Dubas did decide to trade for a goalie — something I find not impossible, but highly unlikely — he would need to wait for 14 days from the date of the trade to even have the new player at a practice.
The market of available goalies is small, and the cost means sacrificing the goal of adding the best forward available. That’s the reality. So, the goalie was bad. So what?